In November 2002 the Los Angeles City Council approved a motion calling for the creation of two committees "to develop and direct the goals of a comprehensive survey of historic resources and a citywide preservation program."

The motion was a response to a Getty Conservation Institute study conducted in 2001 that assessed the purpose and value of a comprehensive citywide historic resource survey in Los Angeles. In the wake of the passage of the city council motion, the GCI is working with the City of Los Angeles and a wide range of stakeholders on a two-part planning project that will examine the basic components of a citywide survey and the steps necessary to undertake such a survey.

The GCI's survey assessment found that only 15 percent of the City of Los Angeles has been surveyed and that many historic properties and districts are unrecognized, underutilized, and frequently threatened (see Conservation, vol. 16, no. 3). The report identified strong momentum in neighborhoods and commercial areas to invest in historic properties and confirmed broad support for a citywide survey from the city's real estate, business, and community interests. The assessment also noted that at this time there is no one city agency with the authority or funds to conduct such a survey (a copy of the report can be downloaded here).

As part of its involvement in the newly launched Los Angeles survey planning project, the GCI will assist the city with research on survey goals and methods. This research includes development of:

  • a historic context statement for evaluating the significance of individual properties and districts, relating the architectural, historical, and cultural development of the city to its physical form;
  • historic resource criteria to identify what is significant in the Los Angeles built environment (criteria such as distinctive architecture, historical association, and cultural significance will be defined and will conform to city, state, and federal guidelines);
  • survey standard guidelines for how the survey will be conducted—how data will be gathered, what level of research will be completed, and the nature of community participation;
  • technological support options to make use of the city's technology, including Geographic Information System (GIS) and Zoning Information Map Access System (ZIMAS) for city agencies and community users;
  • preservation incentives to help owners who wish to invest in their residential and commercial historic buildings.

Once the city approves the proposed methods, a pilot survey will be undertaken to test and refine those methods.

The GCI will serve as an information resource to the city's committee process, sharing its research with the city staff working committee and the committee of civic leaders and assisting in the preparation of the survey plan. Ultimately, it is hoped the historic resource survey itself will be an ongoing project within the city. The goal of the citywide historic resource survey is to obtain and use data on the city's historic buildings and districts as part of its cultural heritage, land use planning, and community development programs, while also stimulating community interest and investment in historic properties.

As a companion project, the GCI will publish two guidebooks of incentives for historic preservation in Los Angeles—one for homeowners and one for commercial property owners. These publications will help property owners understand the economic benefits of having their property identified as historic and the incentives available to maintain and invest in their property.